Published by Marvel

Brian Michael Bendis          Writer

Bryan Hitch                        Penciler

Paul Neary                         Inker

Paul Mounts                      Colourist


The next Marvel event, this book starts off in a post-apocalyptic world where Hank Pym’s robotic creation ‘Ultron’ has multiplied and taken over at least New York, maybe the world. A handful of superheroes have survived and of course are based in an underground hideout beneath Central Park.

This is one of those books that after closing the final page makes you feel totally awesome and you have no idea why.  It does very little to further the plot but does reiterate the desperate nature of this reality.

High five to A Place In Space for sending me the original cover which is a Bonus Digital Edition so I can use with the free Marvel AR app on my phone to unlock hidden videos and images. I’ve actually had this app for a while and now can finally justify its existence.

This book very much continues in the same vein as its predecessor. The cover stands well against the first with the dull brass palette really trying to define this reality as something separate from Earth-616. It shows a fight scene with overwhelming amounts of Ultrons piling up, which serves to assert the impending danger of ‘The Age of Ultron’.

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Then BOOM – out of nowhere a secret message! Watching in augmented reality we are shown a video clip with images from book one accompanied by Barton’s warning to whomever may be receiving, to stay away from New York. It is followed by a threat from Ultron. This would be quite dramatic if it weren’t for the piss poor voice acting of Hawkeye. His monotone warning (which serves as a recap of last issue) holds absolutely no emotion or urgency and he does have a rather shockingly high-pitched voice for a man who just shot a lady through the arm with his back to her.

Ultron’s message is somewhat of an enigma in that he claims; “Your heroes have fallen further than they could ever imagined. Some of them will perish. The choice is yours. Now begins the Age of Ultron.” Forgive me for saying this seems one step away from a Geordie announcing; “Who goes…you decide.”  Exactly how the choice is ours – I have no idea.

Once we get passed the cover, expectation now at the max, we do get to see what is happening outside Manhattan. The scene in San Francisco is set with silent panoramic cross-page panels which seems somewhat strange to me but I expect work better on digital issues. It appears that Bendis and Hitch have taken the approach of disregarding the centrefold gutter for most of the issue which gives them a lot more freedom and allows the scale of destruction to be shown to dramatic effect. They have also applied a generous smattering of bleeds to emphasise timing in the silent panels.  Although this is far from a new concept it seems either more noticeable or more frequently employed in these pages. I can’t help but see two fragmented panels. I guess like everything, the more I see the more normal it will become and I do expect to see a lot more of it as digital comic sales increase.

One of the most evident factors of this title is Mounts outstanding colours. The first section of the story is soaked in an eerie green, then fiery red as the robots dish out their dose of devastation and then into a deep blue in Nick Fury’s lair which is now Moon Knight and Black Widow’s safe house.  When Spiderman has a flashback the panels are awash with bright red and blue which haunt the now depressing grey and orange electric lighting of the NY underground hideout.

Further AR has been used to demonstrate sign language and also later on for cross-referencing scenes in Fury’s hidden intel room with panels from Mighty Avengers #12,13 and 18, (when he was trying to get to the bottom of the Skrull invasion).

It would appear that the sign language has just been placed there for the sake of it. Natasha and Marc are signing to each other in the panel but I find showing the exact signs on video unnecessary. There are also subtitles to this short video, describing the pictures, but it has no audio. AR definitely has some accessibility uses but I think it would probably work best as audio description for the visually impaired.

The ‘plot reveal’ that Spidey was being held captive so he could be sold to Ultron isn’t actually a plot reveal as it’s in issue one.

The cast of AoU is nice but a little boring if I’m honest. I mean of course Tony Stark had to be there and maybe it’s a good job he’s already underground and we don’t have to follow him on some sort of one man crusade to reach the others and save the day. Nice to see Iron Fist and Quicksilver in the background and I’m surprised Steven Strange isn’t playing a more up front role. There are a lot of strong female characters too:  She-Hulk, Storm and Emma Frost (who is the most casually dressed I have ever seen,) are all present but they barely get a line each. Also, to think that Clint is the only one who would go out on a limb for Spidey takes a stretch of the imagination but then comic book readers are good at that. In Ultron’s words; “Your heroes have fallen further than they could ever imagine” so perhaps that explains the total obliteration of confidence everyone seems to have suffered. It does feel like Punisher is missing and perhaps Carol Danvers in whatever form she would like to take but hopefully other characters will get a big shock reveal. Luke Cage and Tony together have sort of taken on the role that Cyclops traditionally would. No mention of any children as of yet but it does add to the list of questions steadily building (along with WTF broke Captain America’s unbreakable shield?!).  With regard to Mr Parker, he is totally out of sorts as he doesn’t even crack a joke. Yes we get it: doom and gloom.

As to the use of AR, it is still finding its place.  The cover video definitely creates excitement and I like its use to recap the story and reference previous issues or other titles. I would be tempted by another AR edition because I’m  interested to follow its development and see what other ways Marvel is planning to implement the technology.

Basically in this whole issue, only two things happen: Moon Knight and Black Widow are introduced and Cap comes up with a plan…yet to be revealed. Other than that, book two’s only purpose is to further cement the disparity of the situation in the readers mind. Hopefully the next issue, which promises to reveal the plan, will be the beginning of an addictive plot. Despite almost nothing happening, this book has a lot of value if only for the totally feel good moment at the end when Cap arises from whatever breakdown he’s been having, holding the splintered fragment of his shield and presents the first smidgen of hope. This after all, encompasses Cap’s whole being and purpose as a character. With all the other titles caught up in this event, you could get the jist of things without this issue but if you like tension building colours, emotive artwork and inspiring one-liners than this is a must.

by Beth Slater